A week in Spokane
Considering the lack of discussion of Spokane here, I'm guessing it's a chow wasteland.
That's okay, I'm not going to have much time to eat anyway, as I'm mostly there to attend an event at the Spokane Arena.
But I will have time to eat a couple of dinners out, plus if there are any especially good markets or delis I'd definitely be interested (any local products I should look for)?
So, can anyone recommend a couple of moderate-priced places to have dinner in Spokane? I'm particularly interested in regional cuisine (I'm from the SF Bay Area), or any ethnic cuisines that will provide an antidote to sandwiches and arena food. I'm going to be staying on the north shore of the river near the park. I won't have a car, but some of my traveling companions might.
Don't let me down, Northwest Hounds!
I noticed this list had been revived so I thought I would repost my recommendations for Spokane. (These have been posted on other Chowhound boards.)
This is an updated list of restaurants and my ratings for them. I hope other Chowhounds find this helpful, as with all lists, these are our experiences and yours may differ greatly.
I am a retired chef/restaurateur that has worked in Europe, NYC, Miami, Nashville, and Los Angeles; we moved here 4+ years ago after I decided to retire, so hopefully we can give some unbiased reviews. If you want more information checkout the reviews on http://www.Tasteeverythingonce.com and http://www.yelp.com , I post there along with many other people and you will receive a broader point of view of the dining establishments rather then just mine.
Please note that these ratings are good for Spokane area only, Spokane is a culinary wasteland – BUT it IS getting better. Just because I rate something 5 stars here, does not mean it is a 5 star NYC restaurant.
The ratings are also only about the food and service. There is no fine dining in Spokane, so do not equate these ratings with ambiance. Gordy’s (5 stars) is very casual, Fat Daddy’s (4 stars) is a pizza joint, DeLeons (4 Stars) is a deli inside of a market, etc. etc. etc.
Also Spokane suffers from what I call restaurant Spokanitis. This is the condition that causes a restaurant to serve a dish absolutely fantastic today and terrible the next. Many of the restaurants in Spokane suffer from some extreme consistency problems, so your dining experiences may vary.
5 Star Restaurants (We have dined at these a minimum of 5 times and have had very-good to excellent meals each time and they have been highly consistent.) These are in order.
Mizuna – (Downtown) You could easily pick this restaurant up and place it into NYC, San Francisco, Tokyo, etc and it would be right at home. Currently this is the best in Spokane and the one that we take visiting guest to the most.
Gordy's Sichuan– (South Hill) The “only” good Chinese food in town and one of the better Chinese restaurants anywhere. No greasy, syrupy mall food here, the food is more upscale, beware though, spicy means spicy.
Vin Rouge – (South Hill) A converted fast food joint that serves very good bistro food. We have always walk away very pleased with the food, both lunch and dinner have been great. However, there are some people who seem to dislike Vin Rouge, it could be the ambiance that sets them off since there is only so much you can do with a fast food joint.
Ambrosia (Valley) – A simple neighborhood bistro in a strip mall, the food is fresh and innovative, service excellent, good wine-list and decent cheese plates and ports.
Spencer’s for Steaks – (Downtown) This is a top-end steakhouse in Spokane!!!!! Think Ruth Chris, expensive, but if steaks are your thing this is it. The Wolf Lodge, near CDA has the local following Spencer’s has better meat and is a more refined dining atmosphere. (It’s only on the bottom of the list because Steak joints don’t do much for me, but if you like steak and have a fat wallet this is THE place in Spokane.
4 Star Restaurants – Alphabetical order.
Café Marron (Browns Addition, west of downtown) – Four stars for Dinner ONLY, lunches are disappointment (2 stars) and not recommended.
DeLeons (North & Downtown) – A deli inside of a Mexican market. This place offers the most authentic Mexican food in Spokane. (I have not tried the downtown location but others who have had said it is the same as the north-side.
El Gallo Giro (Valley) – Probably the best sit-down Mexican restaurant in Spokane, a gawdy green building that could fit easily in TJ, Ensenada, or Cabo, but the food is good – for Spokane.
Europa (Downtown) - Nice atmosphere, great for a late night drink and bite to eat, or for a nice dinner/lunch, it’s concept is around the European/American style of dining so don’t expect extremely fast service, they aren’t slow, just different then what most Americans are used to.
Fat Daddy’s (North) - very casual pizza and Italian place, the best pizza that we have had in Spokane.
Hay J’s (Valley) – Unpretentious bistro situated besides a gas station, it has been hit and miss but mostly hits.
Italian Kitchen (Downtown) - This is best Italian in Spokane, but would only rate 3 stars max any where else.
Latah Bistro (South side) - A nice neighborhood bistro that some feel is an upscale bistro. There prices are certainly upscale (read expensive) but the food is very good. If it was a better value it might be able to creep into the 5 star area until then it is a solid 4+ stars.
Moxie (Downtown) - A solid 4 star venue, the chef has matured over the years, service can be a little lacking – the food is innovative, but there can still be some items that need a little work, slightly expensive for what you get.
Picabu Neighborhood Bistro (South Hill) - Very casual, good value bistro in a strip mall. Smaller menu, but the food is always intriguing and different. Great Value.
Pueblo Amigo (North) – El Gallo Giro has better sit down Mexican but they are close behind them for decent Northern style Mexican food in Spokane.
Rock City Grill (Downtown) - located at the River Park Square, we have always had a good dining experience at this casual eatery. If you are in the Mall or have just seen a movie there it is the best dining option available, imho.
Rocky Rococo (Downtown) - I don’t know why I have given this pizza joint 4 stars, except I just seem to like it. Great place to take kids or grandkids, beer is cheap and pizza parties there are economical. Located downtown in a nice historic building, most people really like their deep dish pizza, I prefer thinner crusts but I must admit it’s pretty good, albeit greasy.
Sante Restaurant and Charcuterie (Downtown) - Think a slice of Europe in Spokane and you have this place, we have been three times and each time it has been superb. It currently DESERVES 5 stars, but I have my rules, it needs 2 more visits to get there. PS We have only been for dinners which are currently served only on Fri and Sat – just fyi.
Scratch (Downtown) - Only been there once but most items were very nice, appetizers were overpriced but good, entrees were reasonable in price. A word of warning, don’t order the classic mojito though, after living off of real mojito’s in Miami many years ago they should be shot for what they served.
Taste of India (North) – To my amazement very authentic and very good Punjabi style Indian food , you want Indian this is the best in Spokane.
Thai Bamboo (Multiple locations) – A chain that is unexpectedly good and dependable.
Thai on First (Downtown) - Thai on first is the most consistent and the BEST Thai in Spokane, give them a try and then try other places and you will see. Very good and authentic.
The Elk (Browns Addition, west of downtown) – nothing fancy just good bar style food.
Tomato Street (North & CDA) - great for family fun, loud Italian style atmosphere, kids get to write on the tables. Lunch specials are a good value, food is American / Italian but this is a better alternative then the national chain.
Two Seven Public House (South Hill) - Same owners and similar concept as the elk.
Azteca (multiple locations) – a local Mexican chain that tries very hard, food is from average to above average. Taco Tuesday’s rule for best value as almost any college kid will tell you.
Anthony’s (Downtown) - Great view of the falls, mediocre food, they used to be a seafood house, but I’ve heard that they are offering much more steaks. Go there for the view during daylight hours, not the food.
Clinkerdaggers (Downtown) - A Spokane institution with a very nice view of the falls, the food is edible but very expensive – you are paying for the view, think Space Needle restaurant.
Cyrus O’Leary’s (Downtown) - A complete TGIF Knockoff, food is not as good as TGIF but close and it’s convenient to most activities downtown – a semi-Spokane icon.
Lindaman’s (South Hill) - It’s a deli with prepared or microwaved items, you point - they zap. To me it s way too overpriced for what you get, but edible and many locals love it.
Steelhead Bar and Grille (Downtown) - Used to be 4 stars, but their food has dropped in quality and they seem to be focusing more on the bar scene. Cool bar and a nice place to stop for a nightcap after dinner at Mizuna’s next door.
The Onion (Downtown & North) - Think a local TGIF, portions are on the large side, lots of fried food, big drinks.
Twigs (Downtown, North & Sourth Hill) - The one on the north side is very LOUD when busy (they have no soundproofing), expect to yell out your order, they also epitomize spokaneitis. The south hill location has been the best I would avoid the north side and the mall location if you want to try them. They have a large local following as being the first large-scale hip restaurant and martini bar, don’t be surprised to hear lot’s of recommendations for them.
Most Chains – would rate in the 3 star range, sure there are some exceptions that would rate lower in my mind, we can all think of those, but that gives you and idea of how I would rate places.
2 stars and below
Sorry I won’t list them here, you have seen my recommendations, if it is not on the list, maybe I haven’t tried it or maybe I have and it wasn’t that good. My goal is not to bash restaurants here (Read the other websites I recommend to get my full reviews), however keep reading, there are a few “popular places” that get many recommendations that deserve a word about them and yes there are some negative comments in this list.
Restaurants that deserve special mentions for various reasons:
Catacombs (Downtown) - This used to be a 4 star place, ambiance is great, an old coal storage area in a historic hotel. We would just like to go to it to enjoy a drink, late night pizza and the setting, very nicely done. However, just lately the food has been pathetic, I mean really bad, and quite a few people have noticed this and commented on it. I simply cannot recommend the food there anymore.
G.W. Hunters (Post Falls) – Huge local following with numerous animals trophies adorning their walls. They are in fact an overpriced 1970’s coffee shop style food establishment that they specialize in elk and venison meat. Food was right out of the 1970’s with prices from the year 2020. Denny’s servers better food at better prices, imho.
Linnie’s Thai (Downtown & South Hill) - They have a limited menu with many Thai favorites missing????; however the biggest complaint that they suffer from extreme spokanitis. We have had the same dishes come out incredibly good and the next time it has tasted like garbage. I WISH they could get it together, if they did, they would be the BEST Thai in Spokane but until they do I cannot recommend taking a crapshoot on them.
Luna's (South Hill) - Great Wine list, service was excellent, food was okay to poor (soup had rubbery crab in it, lamb had to be sent back three times and the cassoulette overpowered the flavors and the NY cheesecake was really a French style whipped cheesecake) like I said food was okay to poor AFTER working out the problems. However this is supposed to be one of Spokane’s finest restaurant, they try to act like it, they certainly charge top dollar but they were severely lacking in the food department. I later found out that they go through chefs like we change our underwear so this may be the reason for the poor food. Personally we never went back and don’t plan on it, for the amount of money we spent there ($200+ with 2 items taken off of the bill), I don’t think I should have to give them a cooking lesson. http://www.lunaspokane.com/
Mama Mia’s (North) - OMG the worst overcooked pasta with a tinny tasting botulism sauce we have every tasted, even our friends kids would not eat it. The meatball tasted like sawdust, dry crumbly and horrible, all panada and very little meat. Just how can you screw up Spaghetti and Meatballs and make it inedible? Seriously boil water, cook pasta, pour ragu over it and presto you have a dish 100X’s better then what we served. On a positive note, the calzone we had was awesome with a very think cracker crust - yum.
Nikko’s (Downtown) - Great wine list and many good selections by the glass, however, the Greek food has been very inconsistent (chronic Spokaneitis). They have upped the prices on their menu making them one of the MOST expensive restaurants in Spokane. They are close to the davenport hotel and I think they are relying on the fact that visitors with expense accounts will be dining there. I cannot fathom paying their prices for such a lack of inconsistency; however I would stop by for the wine bar.
Steam Plant Grill (Downtown) - a brew-pub with food, they have a great bar, good beer, nice pool tables, and a “fantastic” historical setting. If you are visiting you might just want to stop in for the history and seeing an old steam plant. However, the food is below par and very expensive for what you get. Go there for a drink and to enjoy the history, shoot a game of pool, but stay away from the restaurant.
Wild Sage (Downtown) - Our first visit was TERRIBLE (but keep reading PLEASE), the manager actually told us that there was nothing wrong with the entree that we sent back, his words were very close to "the taste gets a little getting used to and most people do not like it the first time." Say WHAT, the apps were insipid with no flavor and we left very disappointed and hungry. The second visit, which we were dragged back in against extreme protests by some good friends who were paying, was probably the BEST meal we have had in Spokane (even better then Mizunas [gulp]), executed flawlessly with each dish being a ohhhh and a ahhhhh. You be the judge, this is one of the popular “in” places right now, so maybe we just got it all wrong on the first visit – but boy that food was horrific. If they replicate the second visit again and again this could easily move out of this category and into the 3star range. Sorry Wild Sage, we are still reeling from that first experience, we need more then a few meals that are fantastic to get you higher up on our list.
White House (Post Falls) - Uhhhh huhhhh, if your motto is, the more garlic the better it tastes, than you will love this place. Forget about any nuances of food or al dente pasta, this is simply “garlicky slop on a plate” (quote from an eight year old). This type of food is definitely not for us, but they have a HUGE local following, again you might want to try them, but we were there with friends and all 8 of us gave it thumbs down. (Sidebar: This place is very popular and very busy so maybe they appeal to a certain type of palate. We had some friends who visited us, also in the restaurant business, her sister lives in CDA and they took them to the white house, our friends thought it was terrible her sister and husband think it is the best restaurant in the whole area – this is truly an either you love em or hate em restaurant.) PS they play really loud music with a fast tempo, not conducive to dining at all.
SPECIAL SPOKANE WARNING
Anything that pertains to be Chinese (except Gordy’s) stay away from, almost all Chinese food in this town is terrible, I mean really REALLY bad. Chinese fortune cookie says (read with Chinese accent) “The more neon a Chinese restaurant has around it, the more terrible the food is!) PS if anybody has any other suggestions for just edible Chinese – we would love to try them, currently we have eaten at over 15 Chinese style restaurants in Spokane 14 out of the 15 rated 1 or 2 stars max.) (Don’t believe me read these reviews on probably the most popular Spokane Chinese restaurant and you will understand what we are dealing with here. http://www.tasteeverythingonce.com/restaurants/1076/
Mexican food is also a joke, although usually slightly more edible. I have mentioned four Mexican places; we have tried many and have walked out very disappointed. I will tell one story though, if you want good sweet and sour chicken there is a Mexican place that’s Arroz con Pollo fooled 4 people into thinking it was sweet and sour chicken in a blind tasting – no I am not making this up. It’s scary up here – caveat emptor and good luck.
CDA area places that we liked
Café DOMA – Breakfast and lunch spot, small cozy good food.
Moontime & The Porch – Good pub style food, same owner as The Elk and 27 public house.
Syringa – I’m not much into Sushi but this is the best place (according to all of my sushi loving friends) for Sushi in CDA.
The Olympia – Old world style Greek food, pretty good value if you are craving greek.
Wolf Lodge Steakhouse – Think cowboy steakhouse, jeans, boots and a hat type dining experience, but the steaks are good and cooked correctly, although I find them a tad bit salty. If you are planning on visiting CDA for the day and like steak this is a place you should try. Truly unique.
I hope this helps
I've got to echo the kudos for Thai Kitchen and Gordy's Sichuan. Both make excellent food using fresh ingredients. Thai Kitchen's food rivals the stuff in Thailand, and is well worth the wait (and there will be one unless you're the first in the door when it opens). Gordy's makes a really really good Mongolian Beef, as well as other exquisite sichuan dishes.
There are a few genuine Mexican places as well, though the last time I was in town, the ones I knew of had been closed.
And yes, the White House in CdA is fantastic.
I get so tired of people bashing the Spokane food scene~ it may not be terrific but it has certainly grown in the last few years! Chances are Spokane will never be known for a wide selection of fine dining, but there are wonderful meals to be had!
The Brooklyn Deli has an incredible selection of sandwiches, bread that is baked daily, homemade soups, salads, breadbowls and a decent selection of microbrews and wines. A fantastic lunch spot!
The Italian Kitchen beats every other attempt at Italian in town~ handsdown. I have recommended it to several people and not one has been disappointed.
Favorites for a dinner out include Hill Restaurant and Ella's Supperclub. If you venture toward the valley, Ambrosia is wonderful as well.
And if you have a spare afternoon~ Hit Vino, the wine shop. Grab a bottle and go next door to OMO for some chocolate, then next door to Saunder's cheese market. They make a wonderful cheese plate, I think the corking fee is $5, and you can sit and enjoy all three at once.
You may also want to check out www.tasteeverythingonce.com
Decent review site with links to restaurants~
I have traveled to Spokane three times a year for almost 25 years. It is a chore trying to find a great place to eat there (especially any kind of ethnic) but I never traveled there without having lunch or dinner at the original Longhorn Barbeque out by the airport. Oh I can smell the mesquite wood burning right now.
Corkage at Saunder's is $4.50.
Ambrosia is wonderful, and the owners have a new restaurant (same executive chef, Jeremiah Timmons) called Cafe Neo up north a bit.
To the poster who said there's no bagel shop - try Ultimate Bagel on Hamilton. It's not perfect, but it's darn tasty and I love it.
Latah Bistro , people, c'mon!
deli's downtown are domini's and brooklyn deli - they're both horrible. I am convinced that it is impossible to find a good sandwhich in the entirety of spokane.
there are a ton of good pho places.
Fugazzi is a black hole for your dollars - don't do it. plus....gross.
latah bistro. I strongly suggest it.
Spokane does have some good places to eat you just got to know where to look. As for a good deli I am still looking for a deli in which they sell bagels. I am from the east coast and unfornately Spokane doesn't really have a bagel shop. When you at your event look for the doughnut stand at the Arena. Those doughnuts are yummmy. A place I would recommend for dinner is called Catacombs Pub and it is on Monroe street downtown and the restaurant is near the Old Spajetti Factory. The pizza is awesome. Another good place to also try is Molly's restaurant downtown. The saying you will not go hungry is true. You will get huge portions that are pretty tasty. The sandwhiches are good and so are the onion rings.
re: Kim Hill
Domini's Deli downtown has always been good each time I've visited and I'm seriously picky about food. I've never tried their other location so can't speak for that one. I also enjoy the Brooklyn Deli downtown...fantastic sandwiches! As for Bagel shops there is a good one or used to be a good one on the west side of downtown; not sure what street now; maybe Post?
For steak and seafood I don't think the Outback Steak House is too bad. As an appetizer you gotta try their Blooming Onion; just out of this world!
Tony's supper club in Coeur d'Alene was a FABULOUS dinner.
My family is in coeur d'alene, and I get frustrated with the food there, but I was really happy with Tony's!
Also, Java for coffee (Coeur d'Alene again). They know what they're doing there.
And I have to have a greasy Hudson's Hamburger. Maybe its just nostalgia, but it's the only time I'll have american cheese
Spokane definitely has a few places that are well worth going to. The first is probably the best Thai food I have ever eaten - and that includes Bangkok: Thai Kitchen. It's run by a husband and wife team, and because of the small staff, can be a bit of wait to get your food. But ohhhh man, when you get the food... heaven. Incredible flavors, the best real Pahd Thai (no catsup), and the house specialty is Moo Tod (garlic pepper and veggies with your choice of meat). The place is iconic. If you are ever in the area, and if the owners aren't on vacation (which is often), you must experience Thai Kitchen.
Another excellent restaurant is Mizuna. Originally a vegan establishment, it now carries seafood dishes. This is right in downtown Spokane near Riverpark Square. If you're staying downtown, don't miss it.
This is an old, old post resurrected, but I have to defend my city: the rule is in Spokane, if it's hyped a lot in the local free papers, it's not necessarily where to go.
The best chicken piccata I've ever eaten, including in Italy, is in Scotty's Bar and Grill on Argonne, definitely not high advertising. Anthony's Riverport on the Spokane Falls, is a beautiful view and reliably good food. The best Italian in town is Tomato Street, an unassuming family place with a real cozy 'Cheers' style bar, where strangers may share tables. The good Mexican is at Argonne and I-90, Casa d'Oro, and there are a lot of hole-in-the-wall places with imaginative dishes and good old-fashioned food. Burgers---back to Scotty's. The Wall Street Diner for sandwiches, and the restaurant at the Doubletree Downtown, Spenser's, for the best steaks in the NW. Lots of ethnic food: the city is strong on Thai, among many.
Thanks for your suggestions, but as I suspected I didn't get out to eat much on my trip to Spokane. I only had three restaurant meals: lunch at Ho Ho's Teriyaki, dinner at Ram Brewery (both next to the arena), and brunch at Luna in South Hill.
In an earlier discussion on Spokane, HLing noted her parents run Ho Ho's -- the place was empty when I was there, and the proprietors were friendly, so I asked if they had a daughter who lived in NY and told her I knew her from chowhound. We had a nice chat (they are very proud of their accomplished daughters) -- they are lovely people. You guys forgot to mention that huckleberries are a local delicacy -- HLing's mom goes up into the mountains and picks them herself for her huckleberry tarts.
Ram was convenient but that was about all. Steak wasn't bad (and was cooked as ordered), but the fries and onion rings were subpar.
Luna is a charming cafe with excellent food and fabulous housemade baked goods and desserts. At brunch they started us off with a basket (with refills) of still-warm nut bread with orange butter. We had both breakfast and lunch type dishes and were all pleased. I had the lamb burger with cambazola and upgraded the soup that came with it to their special crab butternut squash bisque, and both were delicious. Desserts were huge and decadent (I indulged in more huckleberries in their light but rich cheesecake).
BTW, the food at the arena is pretty good for arena food. Not gourmet by any means, but lots of choices and made fresh with decent ingredients.
I know of a Thai restaraunt called Riverview Thai which is right across the steet from the Arena, in the Flour Mill (which is a quaint little mall with a great view of the river.)
I've never been there, but I've heard from more than one person that Riverview is pretty good and moderately priced.
Someone else posted a link to the Flour Mill, which is very close to the arena. Sounds like the place to visit -- one decent Thai meal and one at Clinkerdaggers (sp?) will probably use up all my dining opportunities.
At least I won't be reduced to eating chain food (although in places like Colorado Springs, Macaroni Grill really is one of the best restaurants in town!).
Having lived in Spokane for many years, take my advice: Run for your life now! Seriously though, understand this place is a cultural and gastronomical backwash. Sure there are fun and tasty places to eat. The Onion Bar and Grill has decent food and is a nice place to chat. For upscale dining there is Windows of the Season in a downtown hotel. Something in-between is Clinkerdaggers which has nice atmosphere and great Creme Brulee. But there is really no innovative foods or excellent genuine cuisine to be found in Spokane. Most delis in big cities are awful if you are a true aficionado so trust me when I say Spokane has nothing whatsoever worth trying. I live in Seattle now and still haven't found a decent Jewish deli or otherwise. Spokane has bologna and American cheese quality deli foods. Not saying that Spokane doesn't have any good food because it does. Just don't expect anything truly special or artistic flare. True ethnic food does not exist there. You'll find some fake places like the Mustard Seed downtown which is kind of good but is hodgepodge of flavors. I haven't eaten in Spokane in a few years so perhaps things have improved some but I doubt it. Unfortunately, Spokane is just one of those towns that will never rise above itself.
Thanks for the comments.
The event I'm attending (Skate America) was held the last three years in Colorado Springs, which is another gastronomic wasteland, so my expectations are low and I've developed coping skills (last year I brought an entire suitcase of food).
Still, I wouldn't want to spend a week there and find out only after I left that the area was famous for some rare delicacy (smoked moose?), or home to a pocket of some ethnic group with great delis (Ukranians?).
re: Ruth Lafler
Sorry for the useless comment, but you might also check around in Couer D'Alene, ID. A very scenic town with a fairly good selection of restaurants. It's about a 30 minute drive from Spokane. The town, although quite touristy does have some interesting choices. I haven't been there in about 5 years otherwise I would suggest specifics. Good luck.
I grew up in Spokane and there's really not much of a culinary thing there. At all. My suggestions: There is a good deli downtown - for the life of me I can't remember the name, but anyone who works downtown knows where it is. They serve enourmous sandwiches with good meat and cheeses, have great pickles and lots of mustards to choose from. It's kind of mid-town. Ask around and you'll find it.
Post Falls, ID. Two good places. The White House for excellent Medditerranean/Italian food. I try to go here each time I visit. This is as ethnic as it gets! Made by a real Italian with lots of noise and garlic. Great wine list for the area.
For breakfast, Down the Street diner. They have excellent egg dishes (skip the basic versions and try the omlettes & scrambles), real potatoes and home-made biscuits and gravy (normally I don't touch these but DTS are unnaturally good).
Coeur d'Alene. Only one place I ever want to go back to: Moon Time Pub on Sherman Ave. Best pub grub I've had in a loooong time, including Seattle. Fabulous service and atmosphere. This will be a regular spot when I visit the family.